Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The State of Horror - New Project in the Works

It pains me to see how the horror genre is today. When something seems to grow in popularity, it eventually becomes "quantity over quality." Like the latest 15 minute trends and the "Wienergate" scandals we hear all over the news. Nobody likes to talk about the real issues. This is where I put my foot down. I've been in love with the horror genre ever since I was a kid, so I have to pour my thoughts and explain why I've been so absent these last few months. The truth is, I've been losing interest in the horror genre for quite sometime now; Which is why I haven't been keeping up with this blog. My passion for the genre is fading away. Remakes are continuing to earn big bucks at the box office, and it just sickens me. Almost every network has a vampire related show on TV. These cookie cutter MTV branded movies like TWILIGHT, THE ROOMMATE and RESIDENT EVIL (and its stupid fucking sequels) don't cut it for me. Jackie Earl Haley is NOT Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees shouldn't be treated like Leatherface's dimwitted cousin. Not only are these movies lame, but people are lame for actually being that fucking brain dead to buy tickets and see them. Nobody seems to be trying anymore.

Originality is almost non-existent. The plot for SCREAM 4 mirrors exactly the way horror is today. Hollywood is nothing more than a product. It's a business, not a passion project. It's all about the money. Reviews and general movie-goer feedback don't matter. If it makes money, the profiteers wont give a shit how you feel. It's not like they ever would anyway. Why do you think Rob Zombie made a sequel to HALLOWEEN? Why does Sony continue to not put any effort into their genre pictures? Because it's never about the fan base. There are some exceptions to this, but they're so few and far in between. I follow politics more than I do horror movies now. It's a damn shame. As much as I hate the way the genre is going, I haven't lost complete faith. I watched a trailer for John Carpenter's new flick (THE WARD) and I couldn't help but think, "my god Carpenter is returning to form?" This is amazing! There is some hope for the future, and that's what inspired me to start writing again. As much as I can't stand remakes and teen vampire romances, the classics will always be there for me. I'll always have the old films on hand, in case I need that moral support.

I'm looking into a fresh start. "Horror-Fanatics" has been great to me, and I'll always appreciate the friends I've made and the opportunities I've had thanks to the site. Including the review quotes I've managed to land on DVD covers. Landing the back quote on GUTTERBALLS was my favorite. I'll never forget that. Horror-Fanatics has opened up many doors for me. Sadly the door for HF itself is closing. I'm experimenting with some ideas which include a podcast format, because I plan to keep my work alive through blogs and online radio shows. Seeing how I've been into politics lately, I'm brainstorming on ways to combine politics with horror movies. Long time fans of the genre will get the idea, seeing how a lot of the classics reflect the times in which they were made. Any film in George Romero's catalog are a perfect example of this. Running a website is fun, but it's just too much work. I have a child to raise and a family to support, so my work won't be as timely as it was before. However I won't be digging my grave anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Hitchcock Honorable Mentions: Suspicion

Written by: Nightmare Child

We're just taking a short break from the actual top ten list to focus on the films not featured on the blog already. Coming up with a Hitchcock top ten wasn't easy. I'm still kicking myself over the films that I didn't pick. It's like picking a favorite child really. Much like our last entry, this film also stars Cary Grant. This is arguably one of his best performances. SUSPICION is a romantic psychological thriller about a shy young English woman who begins to suspect her husband of trying to kill her. It's really a simple plot that doesn't need to be explained any further. It'll have you guessing all the way to the very end. Is Cary Grant's character a murderer? Or is it all just one big misunderstanding?

With great acting from both Grant and Joan Fontaine, SUSPICION will have you on the edge of your seat. There's one scene in the film that really stands from the rest. It's the scene where Johnnie (Grant) brings his wife a glass of milk to her while she's in bed. To make the imagery stand out, they actually placed a light bulb inside the glass to make it more stunning. You begin to wonder if he did something to the milk. Poison perhaps? You'll just have to watch the film for yourself if you haven't done so already.

CAMEO NOTE: Hitchcock actually has two cameos in this movie. Four minutes in you can see him walking a horse across the screen at the hunt meet. The second is about six minutes into the movie where he's tossing a white sheet of paper while the bus pulls up for Robert Donat and Lucie Mannheim to leave the theater.

Our favorite Hitchcock Movies #4

Written by: Nightmare Child

Most of Hitchcock's thrillers deal with the same concept of a person who is at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's often a mistaken identity case. An innocent soul has to endure a series of horrifying events leading up to one giant conclusion. NORTH BY NORTHWEST is no different. Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, a man who is mistaken for a Mr. George Kaplan and kidnapped by Valerian and Licht. He is taken to the house of Lester Townsend on Long Island. There he is interrogated by a man he assumes to be Townsend, but who is really Phillip Vandamm. Thornhill repeatedly denies he is Kaplan, but Vandamm does not believe him. He orders his right-hand man Leonard (played marvelously by Martin Landau) to get rid of him. It's a cat and mouse chase across the country with Mr. Thornhill running to save his own life.

Filled with murders and unbelievable chase scenes (one in particular being the most iconic involving a crop dusting plane), NORTH BY NORTHWEST is the perfect film for thrill seekers and worldly travelers. It's a nice change of pace from Hitchcock's previous film VERTIGO. The plot of this film involves what Alfred Hitchcock calls a "MacGuffin", a physical object that everyone in the film is chasing but which has no deep relationship to the plot. This plot device seems to work almost every time. Much like Hitchcock's other film SABATEUR, the ending takes place on a historical landmark. This one being on top of Mount Rushmore.

This is easily one of Hitchcock's most intense and thrilling films. It's got so many twists and turns that it makes it hard for any human being to trust anyone. Anything can happen, and it's presented well. Grant makes this picture his own. Cary Grant worked with Hitchcock on three other different films: Suspicion, Notorious and To Catch a Thief. All of which are amazing films in their own right. Grant personified the prototype of the ideal man created by Hitchcock and the type of man he would have liked to be. Every man at one point wanted to be Cary Grant. Even he himself wanted to be Cary Grant. Hitchcock also stated that Grant was "the only actor he ever loved in his whole life". Who could blame him? After seeing this movie you can't help but love Cary Grant.

I'm sure for alot of people, this movie would be number one on their list. Sadly we're not finished yet. We still have three more films to cover plus some added honorable mentions. There are just way too many Hitchcocks films that have yet to be covered. If you don't have NORTH BY NORTHWEST in your collection already, I highly recommend the blu-ray. It has that nice high def polish that's just going to make you love the film even more.

CAMEO NOTE: At the very end of the opening credits, you can see Hitchcock missing his bus right after they show his name on screen.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Our favorite Hitchcock Movies #5

Written by: Nightmare Child

Birds are friendly creatures, right? Remember the impact George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD had? It used to scare me watching it at night as a child. Just the thought of strangers trying to force themselves into your home drove me crazy and kept me up through the night. Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS had the same exact impact on me. Instead of people, it's crazy birds trying to kill you. Isn't that strange? Birds trying to kill people? Hitchcock made it work; too well in fact. THE BIRDS is one of Hitchcock's most popular films (and for good reason). Unlike his previous work which consists of crime thrillers and dramas, THE BIRDS is more of a true horror movie. Based on the 1952 novella by Daphne du Maurier, THE BIRDS takes place in the town of Bodega Bay, California. Which is, suddenly and for unexplained reasons, the subject of a series of widespread and violent bird attacks. Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) travels to the coastal town to hook up with a rugged fellow (Rod Taylor) she's only just met. Before long the town is attacked with poor Melanie caught in the mix.

Having this film as #5 on our list seems a little unfair. THE BIRDS is a great movie all on its own, but Hitchcock has so many great flicks that it's hard to narrow it down. I'm sure most of you have seen this movie at least once in your life. This is one of those movies I like to push people to see. It's really scary and intense to watch. Just seeing a flock of seagulls going after a group of school children is bad enough. Picture them trying to enter a house that you've boarded yourself in with a massive army of them waiting outside near the playground. Of all the Hitchcock movies out there, this one scared me the most. You would have to be living in a rock most of your life to never hear of this movie. It's been parodied to death in cartoons, TV sitcoms and in other motion pictures. Looking back at THE BIRDS today is an enjoyable experience. You may laugh at the special effects, but for its time it was really frightening. The noise that the birds themselves make are uneasy to the ear. I don't see how anybody can bad mouth this movie. THE BIRDS sadly lacks a conventional score. Instead of music the film uses sound effects and sparse source music in counterpoint to calculated silences.

THE BIRDS even had a sequel in 1994 called "THE BIRDS II: LAND'S END." If you're smart enough, you'll stay away from that dreaded so called sequel. The original classic is all you need to satisfy your dark urges. Last we heard Platinum Dunes tried to do a remake back in 2007, but ended up just scrapping the project (thank god) in 2009. The last thing we need is for an explanation as to why the birds are killing people. We've already seen terrible remakes for THE LODGER and PSYCHO. Leave this one alone damn it!

CAMEO NOTE: Two minutes into the film Hitchcock can been seen leaving the pet shop with two white Sealyham terriers.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our favorite Hitchcock Movies #6

Written by: Nightmare Child

Normally when someone peaks into the window of another persons home, that's creepy enough. Can you imagine spying through someone's window, only to discover someone being murdered? It's a peeping tom's nightmare. If anybody can take an already creepy concept and turn that volume up to 11, it's Alfred Hitchcock. This was one of those movies I used to watching as a kid. Seeing it as an adult now just makes me appreciate it more. I love REAR WINDOW, and I'm sure most of you reading this list do to. It's such a great movie. Both its story and visual perspective are dictated by its protagonist's imprisonment in his apartment, convalescing in a wheelchair, from which both he and the audience observe the lives of his neighbors in a cheerfully voyeuristic fashion.

L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart) is an adventure-loving professional photographer sidelined by an accident while on assignment. When the invalid wife of the salesman Lars Thorwald vanishes, Jeff believes the man might have killed his wife. He tells his concerns to Lisa and to his nurse Stella and the women agree with his observations, but his friend Detective Thomas J. Doyle finds reasonable explanation for each remark. However, Lisa decides to go further in her investigation, getting closer to the suspect. One could argue that the murder plot is the MacGuffin--a mere pretext--in a film that's more interested in the implications of Jeff's sentinel perspective. When Jeff peaks out into other peoples homes, he gives the residents weird names to remember them by.

Later we learn more about the lives of the other neighbors. Jeff's evident fear of intimacy and commitment with Lisa provides the other vital thread to the story. As with most of these mysteries I can't really explain too much without giving away the entire movie, so I'll just let it rest for now. REAR WINDOW has been called one of Alfred Hitchock's best. And as you can see we completely agree (it's on our list!). It received four Academy Award nominations and was added to the United States National Film Registry in '97. REAR WINDOW has been re-told, parodied and referenced many times. DISTURBIA (2007) was practically a modern retelling of the story. This goes to show you that an old idea never goes out of style!

As with more of Hitchcock's classics, Universal has re-released REAR WINDOW in an awesome Legacy Special Edition set. Chalk full bonus features that will make you love and appreciate the movie even more.

CAMEO NOTE: About 25 minutes into the film Hitchcock can be seen winding the clock in the songwriter's apartment.

Our favorite Hitchcock Movies #7

Written by: Nightmare Child

Hitchcock truly was the master of suspense. This film alone proves that as fact. VERTIGO is one of Hitchcock's most intense and thrilling pictures. Those with a fear of heights can relate to James Stewarts portrayal as a man who is deathly afraid of tall structures. Hitchcock loves to take ordinary people and put them in extraordinary situations. Based on a novel by Boileau-Narcejac, VERTIGO is about retired police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart). Ferguson suffers from acrophobia (fear of heights) and has been re-hired as a private investigator to follow the wife of an acquaintance to uncover the mystery of her peculiar behavior.

When VERTIGO was first released, it seemed to be ahead of its time. Although it wasn't a box-office success when originally released in 1958, VERTIGO has since taken its deserved place as Alfred Hitchcock's greatest, most spellbinding, most deeply personal achievement. VERTIGO has been called the most personal, emotional, and complex of Hitchcock's films. I tend to agree with all these statements. VERTIGO is such an amazing picture. It's been analyzed and praised to death by fans all over the world. It's one of those Hitchcock movies that I'll never get sick of watching.

It's suspenseful and scary to watch in parts. I myself am afraid of heights. Just thinking about falling off large buildings gives me goosebumps. There are phenomenal performances by Jimmy Stewart, who plays the biggest anti-hero of his career and Kim Novak whose stunning beauty and exceptional personalities shine through this dark film. If you don't already have this film in your collection, I recommend picking up the Universal Legacy Special Edition DVD set. It's a 50th Anniversary set with restored picture, audio and some great bonus material.

CAMEO NOTE: Eleven minutes in Hitchcock can be seen in a grey suit walking in the street.

Our favorite Hitchcock Movies #8

Written by: Nightmare Child

Much like the last film in our countdown (ROPE), this movie is notorious for its setting and atmosphere. LIFEBOAT is different from Hitchock's usual crime thriller. It's a war movie that follows a group of survivors who are stranded out at sea. During World War II a group of American and British citizens are stuck in a lifeboat after their ship and a U-boat sink each other in combat Survivors from the freighter torpedoed by a U-boat huddle together including columnist Constance Porter, the ship's engineer Kovac, radio operator Stanley Garrett, nurse Alice MacKenzie, millionaire Charles 'Ritt' Rittenouse, seaman Gus Smith, steward Joe, and Mrs. Higley, a hysterical English woman holding her dead baby. Though the inhabitants of the lifeboat come from vastly different backgrounds, they quickly set aside the social and economic differences that divide them in a united effort to survive.

Explaining the plot further would just ruin the whole thing, so I'll just leave it at that. Basically you're stuck watching these people trying to survive out at sea. Just the thought of being stranded out in the ocean is scary. Trying being in the middle of war while it's happening. These elements together create paranoia, and that's just one of the reasons why we love this movie. What makes LIFEBOAT stand apart is its character development and dialog. LIFEBOAT runs at a pretty good pace and at 91 minutes total it doesn't ever seem to drag.
The story comes from John Steinbeck, the author of such stories as "The Grapes of Wrath" and "Of Mice and Men."

Trying to fit a group of actors in one place can be a challange, and it's remarkable that Hitchcock was able to get it down.
For such a small frame Hitchcock managed somehow to fit a good number of characters on screen at the same time. If you haven't had the oppertunity to see LIFEBOAT yet, then I suggest adding it to your Netflix cue right away. Especially if you're a fan of the movie ROPE. The film is so good that it received Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Original Motion Picture Story and Best Black and White Cinematography. Some critics see this as an unsubtle wartime propaganda piece; I call it a great achievement in cinema. LIFEBOAT's portrayal of a German character (was perceived as a positive fashion) caused considerable controversy at the time of its release. Looking back at it now, I don't think that's entirely true. Go see this movie!

CAMEO NOTE: How can Hitchcock make an appearance in LIFEBOAT without having to play a character on screen? That's easy, just read the newspaper. 25 minutes into the film Hitchcock's body is seen in the "before" and "after" newspaper ad for "Reduco Obesity Slayer".